Mental health should not be overlooked during the coronavirus outbreak, according to local therapist Kaci Bryant. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Bryant works at Renewing Hope Counseling, which serves clients from across the Greater Houston area and employs therapists that specialize in a range of mental health issues. As of March 18, their offices at I-10 near Beltway 8 is still open, but clients who are unable to leave their homes can take advantage of telehealth services to interact with therapists via video chat.
“I have actually been shocked with my current clients that none of them have canceled [sessions] because of the coronavirus,” she said. “I’ve reached out to every client that I have and offered the telehealth option, but most of them … want to come in. People crave social interaction, and it’s so limited with bars and restaurants being closed and that encouragement of social distancing.”
Bryant encourages individuals during this time to stay active, keep their minds engaged and monitor how they feel throughout the day. She said sitting on the couch watching Netflix all day can lead to symptoms of depression in anyone whether they have dealt with that in the past or not.
These symptoms can include sleeping too little or too much, lacking motivation, feeling sad or fatigued, and a loss on interest in things that would typically interest them.
Those who are already dealing with depression but are used to working around others, going to the gym and having happy hours with friends might have to get creative as coronavirus concerns continue, Bryant said.
“For somebody who’s already struggling with depression, you can view depression as a tiger chasing you—it’s kind of a constant fight,” she said. “And once you stop fighting, that tiger will get you. Depression is kind of the same way, so we always talk about staying active and busy.”
Others could be seeing unhealthy family dynamics play out when cooped up at home, and those who live alone will struggle with the effects of not being able to interact with anyone directly, Bryant said.
“Being with people releases those happy chemicals in our brain,” she said. “I think there’s just an innate sense in us to want to be around people. Our love banks need to be filled by friends and family, and even our colleagues do that for us. If our brains aren’t engaged, they start shutting down.”
Bryant said she believes she is just seeing the beginning of the effects the coronavirus will ultimately have on society’s mental health. Much like Hurricane Harvey led to increased anxiety in some Houstonians, she said the unknowns surrounding people’s jobs and the economy will take a toll on many.
While she expects to see new clients seeking help from these effects, she said she is hopeful that people will recognize symptoms early on and take steps to prevent things from getting worse.
Bryant encourages individuals to get creative when it comes to staying busy and active, recommending activities such as:
- working out at home;
- enhancing knowledge through resources such as TED Talks;
- developing a new skill;
- planting a garden;
- video chatting with loved ones;
- going outside with friends;
- if applicable, finding spiritual guidance from churches holding online services; and
- checking in with loved ones who deal with mental health issues.
Learn more about Renewing Hope Counseling at www.renewinghope.net.